In addition to being a great prop in Looney Tunes sketches, it turns out that meat cleavers are also good tools in the kitchen and finding the best cleaver knife can be difficult.
Cleavers are great for a number of tasks in the kitchen. They tend to have a good amount of weight, which can be useful for tasks like cutting through bone. The knife’s flat side can also be used for crushing food, as well as transferring food from the cutting board to elsewhere.
If you’re trying to find the best cleaver for you, then you are reading the right article. This article discusses what aspects you should look for in a cleaver knife, then discusses and reviews a number of different cleavers.
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What to Look For in a Cleaver Knife
While cleavers might all look similar from a distance, when using them, there is a fair amount of variation. Since a good knife will be with you for years to come, it’s a good idea to think about what kind of cleaver will be best for you.
Western or Eastern Style
As with many other types of knives, Cleavers also vary in construction based on whether you’re using a western design or an Eastern design. Chinese cleavers, for example, tend to be used for many tasks that would be done by a western chef’s knife. Japanese cleavers are often used for chopping vegetables, whereas western cleavers tend to be used more for chopping meat.
While any type of cleaver can be used for cutting meat and vegetables, these tools do feel a little different to use. To summarise broadly, western cleavers tend to be optimised primarily for processing meat, whereas eastern cleavers tend to be optimised to be used for a wider variety of tasks.
Both styles of knife are great. However, they do feel quite different. It comes down to your preference and what kinds of kitchen tasks you’re trying to get done with your cleaver.
When making knives, there is a choice between either choosing a harder steel, which can be lighter, since less metal is needed, or to use a softer steel that has more weight. Having more weight can be an advantage for heavy-duty cutting tasks. At the same time, a lighter-weight, harder steel can be good for cutting more quickly, especially for tasks like chopping vegetables.
Personally, I like a lighter blade, since they’re more versatile. It can take a minute to adjust to a lighter cleaver if you’re used to heavier ones, but once you have the technique down, they’re definitely up to the task as well.
Cleavers can vary in size; most are between six inches and nine inches, although this can vary in some cases. Shorter cleavers can offer more precision, which can be helpful for certain tasks. On the other hand, if you’re frequently butchering whole animals or similar, then a longer cleaver may be advantageous.
While you can certainly get multiple cleavers of different sizes, cleavers are somewhat of a speciality knife. If you’re only looking to buy one cleaver, you might get a knife in the seven to nine inches range. Or, if you’re mainly looking for a cleaver for heavy-duty tasks like butchering whole chickens, you might go with a larger cleaver just for that specific use-case. It all comes down to your personal preference and what you’re trying to get done with your cleaver knife.
Best Cleaver Knife Reviews
Shun Classic Cleaver
When using this knife, the first thing I noticed was the appearance. This knife is designed to stand out, which it does, while still looking sleek and professional. Next, I noticed the weight of the blade–it’s extremely light. This is characteristic of many Japanese or Japanese-style blades, which often use a harder, sharper steel, which allows for a lighter total weight.
The product describes itself as “ideal for vegetable preparation,” so I started by cutting up some celery. The knife is light and easy to use, while being extremely sharp. The cleaver lives up to its promises and was great to use. Of course, I tested this cleaver with meat as well, and it’s plenty sharp and strong.
Regardless, being optimized for general cooking tasks, rather than primarily meat cutting, is characteristic of eastern-style cleavers. This could even be used as a replacement for a standard chef’s knife.
Overall, this is an excellent tool. On top of being a great tool for cutting meat and other “standard” cleaver tasks, this is also a very well rounded tool for basically any cutting task in your kitchen. I’d recommend this for anyone and was all-around impressed with this cleaver.
J.A. Henckels International Cleaver
Whether you’re a home chef or a professional cook or butcher, this cleaver does a great job. It’s at an excellent price point where it could either be a good cleaver for home use, or an extra cleaver to have in a professional kitchen. It’s well built, will last a lifetime–or at least a few decades–and is easy to hold and use.
This knife works great. To test it out, I decided to cut up a whole rabbit. Even when dealing with the bones, this cleaver was a champion. It was able to easily get through tough bits without much trouble at all. Overall, this is a great knife at this price-point. I’d even be willing to pay a bit more for a knife of this quality.
8 inch Professional Japanese Cleaver
When using the blade, I was impressed by how well made this product is. Most knives that I test at this price point are on the lower end, but this one was quite well made. As mentioned, this is a full tang knife, which is often not the case for knives at this price point.
As for using the knife, I tested it with both meat (chicken) and vegetables (pumpkin). The knife was able to cut through both easily. Out of the box, this is a pretty sharp knife and was able to cut no problem, as described above. However, I did give it a bit of a sharpen and found that it performed a little better after doing so. You might consider sharpening up this knife after you get it.
Overall, this is a solid product and is surprisingly good for the price. I found some of the other options to be a little sturdier, and a little sharper out of the box, but this is still a pretty good knife. I would recommend this for an all around solid knife that will keep a few extra bucks in your pocket. This knife is also packaged quite nicely, so this could be a good gift or similar.
Mercer Culinary Kitchen Cleaver
When using this cleaver, I found that it performed well. It was pretty sharp out of the box, although I did give it a sharpen after testing it initially. it got a little sharper, but it was already quite sharp when it was received. This knife is quite heavy, certainly heavier than some of the other knives on this list. If you prefer a heavier knife, this may be a good option; if you prefer a lighter knife, something like the Shun Classic may be a good option.
The hole for hanging this up is a nice touch. In terms of build quality and performance, I found this to be roughly comparable to the Pokalee, although it comes at a higher price point. If you want to spend a few extra bucks compared to that model, this one does have a few extra nice features, like the hole for hanging. But, the Pokalee also does a comparable job for a little less.
Wusthof Gourmet 7
It’s also worth noting that the Wusthof cleavers come in a variety of different sizes, ranging from six inches to nine inches. I decided to go with the longest model, the nine-inch cleaver. Using this knife to cut a whole chicken went smoothly. You’ll have no problem using this for cutting meat.
All-in-all, this is a solid cleaver. At this price point, I would lean toward the J.A. Henckels cleaver, but this is a solid alternative. If you decided to go with this knife, you’d have a good experience.
There are a ton of high quality cleavers on this earth. Any of these cleavers will be a solid addition to your kitchen. After testing them all, I can confirm that these are all perfectly capable of cutting meat, vegetables, and other food items. So, which one should you pick?
For the best cleaver knife, the Shun Classic is an excellent choice. A high-end eastern-style cleaver can perform basically any task that you’d do in the kitchen. Whether you’re cutting vegetables or processing a rabbit, this cleaver performs great. It’s extremely sharp out of the box and you can feel that it’s well built.
For the best value for your money, the J.A. Henckels International is what I’d recommend. The price point on this cleaver is great, performing as well as other cleavers that cost a fair bit more. This is a great knife that can complete any basic cleaver task easily. It would be well suited to a home kitchen, or as an extra cleaver to have onhand in a professional kitchen or butcher shop.
For an inexpensive cleaver that will do the trick, the 8 Inch Japanese Cleaver is a great pick at its price point. Cutting vegetables like pumpkin and various meats were both easily doable with the Pokalee cleaver. While there are higher-end cleavers that are sturdier and sharper, this is definitely satisfactory, and for the price point, it exceeded my expectations.
So, which of these cleavers works best for you? Let us know in the comments below. We would love to hear what you have to say about cleavers. Or, if you have any questions about these products, or about buying a cleaver, drop a message below and I’d be glad to get back to you.